Dortmund: (3-4-3) Bürki; Akanji, Hummels, Can; Hazard, Bellingham, Witsel, Meunier; Reyna, Haaland, Sancho
Gladbach: (3-4-3) Sommer; Bensebaini, Ginter, Elvedi; Wendt, Kramer, Neuhaus, Lainer; Hofmann, Stindl, Wolf
As explained in our preview, this game was not only a marquee game to start the season, but also a hugely consequential one for both of the Bundesliga’s two Borussia teams. The game was not the feast of attacking football that some might have expected, but the game had a real intensity as well as some heated moments, especially in the first half, until Dortmund pulled away in the second.
Dortmund’s press caused some hairy moments in the opening minutes for Yann Sommer and his defence, but Gladbach grew into the game themselves, firstly getting their own press going and increasingly dominating possession. A clever chipped through ball from Hannes Wolf sent Jonas Hofmann through on goal, and Roman Bürki had to improvise both for the initial save and to claw the ball away on a second effort.
After such a tight first half, it was galling for Gladbach that they fell behind to a well taken but very avoidable Gio Reyna goal. Nico Elvedi first failed to clear the ball, kicking it straight to youngster Jude Bellingham, and then was unable to stop the shot as Reyna slotted it through his legs, leaving Sommer stranded. The composure of the two 17 year olds – Bellingham making his Bundesliga debut – put to bed any notion that Dortmund’s ever increasing youth (and therefore immaturity) was going to be any sort of a problem.
The second half didn’t start much better, and a low-percentage challenge from Ramy Bensebaini on Gio Reyna resulted in a penalty. There was minimal, if any, contact on Reyna, so it was frustrating that having not been seen as a penalty initially, it was given on review. But Bensebaini did not get the ball, and left himself vulnerable by going to ground.
In the 57th minute Marcus Thuram and Alassane Pléa both came on, for Wolf and Lars Stindl. Shortly after Stevie Lainer set Thuram in behind, and drew a tackle from Hummels which also didn’t get the ball and certainly got the man, though VAR didn’t see fit to recommend a review of this one. Patrick Herrmann replaced Oscar Wendt in the 68th minute, prompting a switch to four at the back. Dortmund sat back, and Gladbach were able to put balls into the box, but both Pléa and Herrmann struck awkward volleys tamely into the ground from tricky positions. Bensebaini was freed to be adventurous on the left from full-back, and one wonders whether Wendt will lose his place – not so much for what he did, but because Bensebaini offers so much from full-back.
Dortmund seemed happy to sit back and break, and they did exactly that, with Jadon Sancho bursting forward from a Gladbach corner. Counter-attacks can very easily peter out, or, as Heung-Min Son showed last weekend, a wrong decision can turn a good chance into a low-percentage one. Sancho made all the right decisions, while running at tremendous pace, slipping in Haaland for a goal which, in the end, looked a formality.
“Except the three goals and a header, did Dortmund have a chance?” Obviously when a team scores three goals, they have made enough chances to win, but there is some truth in this reaction. Certainly, the scoreline was harsh on Gladbach, who maybe didn’t create the clearest chances in open play but could’ve had a penalty themselves. It’s a disappointing start to the season, but with a weakened starting line-up and Thuram and Pléa looking lively off the bench, coach Marco Rose should not be too downhearted, even if his team missed out on the chance of a statement result.